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2 Iranian ships in Suez worry Israel

2 Iranian ships in Suez worry Israel
Two Iranian army helicopters fly above military ship during a large maneuver at Sea of Oman in Iran, August 26,2006. Iran on Saturday successfully tested an improved, guided surface-to-sea missile made by the country's defense industry at the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman in continuation of the "Blow of Zolfaqar" wargames which began last Saturday. (UPI Photo/Rouhollah Vahdati/ISNA) | License Photo

CAIRO, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Israeli officials said the presence of two Iranian warships Tuesday in Egypt's Suez Canal is a provocation as tensions in the Arab world worsened.

Iranian officials called the ships' passage a milestone in Iran's attempt to have a larger role on the seas but did not provide any information about the ships' mission, The Washington Post reported.

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The two ships are the frigate Alvand, reportedly armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, and the supply vessel Kharg that has 250 personnel aboard.

Iranian navy Lt. Cmdr. Rear Adm. Gholam-Reza Khadem Biqam told Iran's Fars news agency the warships will be dispatched to the Mediterranean Sea and will remain in the area for a year for training exercises.

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Iranian Brig. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi said the ships' passage succeeded "by the grace of God" and Israeli officials' concerns were "negative propaganda."

"The global arrogance should know that the Islamic Republic is fully prepared to defend the divine ideas of the Islamic Republic system, and this readiness is becoming stronger day by day," said Mousavi.

In July 2009, Israeli officials said an Israeli submarine that can carry nuclear warheads had gone through the canal a month earlier.

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The statement was perceived as a warning to Iran, the Post reported.

Silvan Shalom, Israel's deputy prime minister, said the ships' passage was a clear message from Iran that it is trying to expand its influence in the region.

The canal's northern mouth, Port Said, is about 60 miles from Israel. The warships' intended destination means they will be sailing parallel to the coast of Israel, al-Arabiya said.

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"We can see what an unstable region we live in, an area in which Iran is trying to take advantage of the situation that has arisen and broaden its influence by transferring two warships via the Suez Canal," said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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